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[TR] Chiwawa (8459') & Fortress (8674') Mountain - East Ridge 08/29/2020

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Trip: Chiwawa (8459') & Fortress (8674') Mountain - East Ridge

Trip Date: 08/29/2020

Trip Report:

Chiwawa (8459') & Fortress (8674') Mountain, East Ridge Trip Report – August 29-31, 2020

I climbed Chiwawa Mountain (8459') & Fortress  Mountain (8674'), the East Ridge Route for both, in a big loop.  It took me 3 days but can be done in 2 long days.  I started at the Trinity Trailhead off Chiwawa River Road North of Lake Wenatchee.  I went up Trail 1550 (Chiwawa River Trail) all the way up along the side of Red Mountain to about 6580’ elevation.  The trail is in pretty good shape and narrows to a goat trail towards the end.  I traversed diagonal and up toward the East Ridge of Chiwawa Mountain.  I got onto the East Ridge of Chiwawa Mountain too early, as it look pretty nice from below.  The rock was rotten, loose and steep along the ridge until I was about ¾ the way to the summit.  I ended up using ledges and goat trails to get onto the better part of the ridge.  Travel was slow due to the rock quality.  There is a ridge/buttress  that  drops South from the middle of Chiwawa, you want to go below and around that before heading up to the East Ridge.  Doing this will avoid the majority of the rotten rock on the lower part of the ridge.  I summited Chiwawa around 5:00pm and setup camp on the summit.  There is a campsite on the summit that is nice that has room for two maybe three if you want to get close.  It was surprisingly cold and was fairly windy.   I was glad I brought extra insulation.  I had a water bottle next to me that was half frozen by the morning.  If there was precipitation, it would have snowed.  I started out for Fortress Mountain from summit camp at 8:00am.  There is a really nice camp at the Col between Chiwawa and Fortess at about 7200’.  It has plenty of room for tents and good access to water.  I would have camped here instead of the summit of Chiwawa if I had known it was there.  Although the Chiwawa summit camp was nice & had a great views, just no water.  I used Crampons and an Ice Axe crossing over  to the East Ridge of Fortress on firm snow.  I climbed a gully of loose rock, class 3 some 4 to get onto the East Ridge of Fortress.  Once on the ridge the rock was decent.  The 4th class step to get to the summit is exposed, so make sure your holds are good.  I summited Fortress around 12:30.  Fortress Mountain has one of the best views of Glacier Peak that you can get, enjoy.  I headed down to Pass No Pass from the summit.  I initially headed down the northwest rocky ridge thinking it was the correct way down, it is not, the rock turns to loose steep garbage.  I corrected my course and headed down the ridge that leads toward the beautiful grassy meadow plateau (another great camping option) heading north toward Glacier Peak.  I kept heading down the ridge until I reached Pass No Pass which is also a fantastic camping area.  I headed down light trail to the main Buck Creek Trail #1513 and followed this trail all the way back to the trailhead.  Overall the loop trip was very nice.  The rock on these two mountains is loose for the most part so be ready to slip and slide.  The views are fantastic.  Fall is in the air so be ready for cold temperatures.  

Some Tips and Notes:

  • 1.  Chiwawa’s East Ridge is mostly steep loose rock.  Connect to the East Ridge after you round the South buttress/ridge to avoid most of it. 
  • 2.  The trail from Pass No Pass to Buck Creek Trail splits into several different trails along the way.  You will have to do a bit of head scratching.  As long as you are heading down you should run into the Buck Creek Trail.   
  • 3.  Along the route there are good camp spots at:  The summit of Chiwawa (no water), The 7200’ Col between Chiwawa & Fortress (good water source), The grassy/sandy meadow plateau below Fortress 7100’ (some water), Pass No Pass area (good water source), several campsites along Buck Creek Trail.
  • 4.  Buck Creek Trail is long and boring so bring comfortable shoes.

Travel Time for reference:  Day 1 (TH to Chiwawa Summit), 9 hours – Day 2 (Summit of Chiwawa to camp off Buck Creek trail), 10 hours – Day 3 (camp to TH),  2.5 hours.

Gear used:   Trekking Poles, Helmet, Ice Axe, Crampons



Chiwawa Mountain (right) & Fortress Mountain (left) from west side of Red Mountain on Chiwawa River Trail.


Upper Chiwawa River Trail on side of Red Mountain 6500' elevation.


Chiwawa Mountain East Ridge on Traverse from side of Red Mountain.


Sample of lower East Ridge rock on Chiwawa Mountain.


Chiwawa Mountain Summit Camp (8459').


Snow crossing from 7200' Col to Fortress Mountain East Ridge.


Fortress Mountain East Ridge.


Fortress Mountain Summit (8674').  


Pass No Pass & Helmet Butte.

Gear Notes:
Trekking Poles, Helmet, Ice Axe, Crampons

Approach Notes:
Trinity Trailhead. Chiwawa River Trail 1550 up the side of Red Mountain. Buck Creek Trail 1513 return to TH.
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